A Brief History of Lynden

The Lynden Sculpture Garden (formerly the Bradley Sculpture Garden) was the estate of the late Harry Lynde Bradley and Margaret (Peg) Blakney Bradley. Harry Bradley, an inventor and industrialist, founded the Allen-Bradley Company with his brother Lynde in 1904, building it into one of the state’s most successful manufacturing concerns. Harry married Peg in April 1926. The date of their wedding is commemorated on the wooden bench by the fireplace, as is the year they purchased the property and named it “Lynden.”

The Bradleys took the nearly 40 acres of flat farmland and, with the help of Chicago landscape architects Langford & Moreau, created an English country park with gently rolling hills, trees and flower beds. The lake and the rustic bridge spanning the water were designed to match Harry Bradley’s memories of the municipal grounds in Kansas City where he swam as a boy.

In April 1934 the Bradleys hired Carl Urban, a fourth generation gardener, to supervise the crew and the planting of the garden beds and trees. Trained in Germany and the United States, Urban observed that when he first saw the acreage behind the house it consisted mainly of corn fields with horses, sheep, goats and 13 oak trees. Over time, nearly 4,000 trees were planted on the property--several varieties of elms as well as Norwegian, Austrian and Scotch pines, Norway maples, a Danish plum tree, seven varieties of birch trees and Kentucky coffee trees. Urban remained on the staff and resided in the apartment in the barn until his death in 1991.

Further plans to construct a botanical garden on the site were derailed by the outbreak of World War II. In 1962, Peg Bradley—already an experienced art collector—began collecting the contemporary monumental sculptures that secured Lynden’s international reputation. She collected actively until her death in 1978. The collection includes sculptures by Alexander Archipenko, Henry Moore, Barbara Hepworth, Clement Meadmore, Marta Pan, Tony Smith, Mark di Suvero and many others. After the works had been purchased, Peg would sit on her porch to direct the location of wood models constructed by the staff as she chose sites for the sculptures. Some of the artists travelled to Lynden to assist with the siting and to assemble their work.

The original farmhouse, built in the 1860s, was enlarged to accommodate Harry, Peg and their daughter Jane. Local architect Fitzhugh Scott provided drawings for the alterations to the barn, the bathhouse, and a diving pier and slide. Several decades later architect David Kahler designed an addition at the west end of the house for an indoor swimming pool, providing more space for the Bradleys’ growing art collection.

In 2009 the board of the Bradley Family Foundation elected to open Lynden to the public. This required an extensive renovation of the house and some of the grounds.
The house has been transformed by Uihlein-Wilson Architects using sustainable building practices. The newly created public spaces include a conference room, a large classroom/studio, a gallery and a glassed-in function space overlooking the large patio.

The project was designed to achieve LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification. A large proportion of the existing structure was re-used or maintained, and more than 75% of the construction and demolition waste was recycled, re-used or otherwise diverted from landfills. Among the many sustainable features is a state-of-the-art geothermal heating system. Eco-sensitive landscaping designed by Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates includes pervious asphalt pavement that promotes drainage, the preservation of mature trees, the re-introduction of native species, and sustainable drainage and care strategies, including pervious asphalt pavement and a rain garden in the new parking area. The renovated residence is available as a conference and retreat center, and for event rentals.

Special thanks to JoAnn Youngman for the history.

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